Croydon Kings booked their place in the South Australia NPL grand final after defeating West Adelaide 4-3 on penalties, following a 1-1 draw at Adelaide Shores Football Centre.
West Adelaide opened the scoring however, with Ricardo Da Silva firing home a loose ball from a Nathan Andijanto corner in the 18th minute.
Croydon almost got back on level terms two minutes later when Joseph Punturieri was picked out alone in the penalty area, but he shot straight at West Adelaide keeper Lewis Moss.
Croydon got their equaliser in the 33rd minute though, with Andreas Weins tapping home a Shaun McGreevy cut back.
West Adelaide looked to regain their lead early in the second half, with Thomas Briscoe firing off a long distance shot, which curled just wide.
But in the 52nd minute, things took a turn for the worse for West Adelaide when midfielder Tom Guttormsen received a straight red card for a foul on Luke Klimek.
Two minutes later, McGreevy had a chance to give Croydon the lead, but he smashed his half volley over the crossbar.
In the 60th minute, Weins picked out McGreevy with a cross, but Moss made a good save to deny the attacker’s powerful strike.
Elias Vlassis tried his luck from distance for the home side, but his shot sailed just over the cross bar.
Croydon turned the screw in an attempt to snatch a late winner, with Rocco Visconte chipping McGreevy through on goal, who chested the ball down, then fired just wide of the post.
In the last minute of normal time, Croydon winger Mohamed Kamara cut in from the left, before finding space at the top of the penalty area to shoot, but his low drive grazed the outside of the post.
Croydon almost made it 2-1 two minutes into extra time when Visconte weaved through West Adelaide’s defence, before cutting back to McGreevy, but Moss did well to tip the striker’s shot past the post.
In the 104th minute, Kamara skipped past two defenders then picked out Weins in the penalty area, but Moss somehow kept the goalscorer’s effort out to keep the scores level.
Croydon continued to pepper West Adelaide’s goal for the remainder of extra time, but Moss stood tall to force the game to a penalty shootout.
But it was Moss’ opposite number, Nicholas Munro, who was the hero after the penalty shootout, saving Vlassis’ spot kick, before watching Briscoe’s effort come back off the crossbar to send Croydon into the final.
Croydon captain Luke Klimek was full of praise for his goalkeeper Munro.
“At the end of extra time, our sole focus was on the penalties and we are all confident in our abilities in taking penalties and with the best keeper in the league we felt confident we could get the job done,” he said.
“We sustained West Adelaide’s pressure in the first half, then in the second half and extra time we were able to control more possession and thus control the game.”
Croydon now face premiers MetroStars in the final at Coopers Stadium on Saturday.
“We need to keep doing what we have done in the past three games,” Klimek said.
“If we do that, we are confident we can get the job done against Metro.”
Meanwhile, West Adelaide finished their first season back in the top flight in third place.
Striker Thomas Briscoe felt West Adelaide were the stronger team up until the red card.
“I think given the circumstances of the red card, the team performed valiantly and battled well for 65 minutes to keep ourselves in it and get to penalties and give ourselves a chance there,” Briscoe said.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but that’s football and this is what happens in penalty shootouts.”
Briscoe labelled West Adelaide’s first season back in the Premier League as superb.
“We upset big teams and had some great moments, unfortunately no silver to go with it, but a great first year back in the top flight,” he said.
“I cannot knock any of the boys’ efforts at all this year and we showed what kind of team and club we are in the last hour against Croydon, but unfortunately the cookie didn’t crumble our way this time.
“The team can take a lot out of this year and look to put that to good use as motivation going into next year.”
Image courtesy of Adam Butler